Part 2: Exploring holistic options to gain better health while life continues to present challenges...
At about the age of 30, I started my holistic journey to health by seeing a naturopath to explore what ways my health could improve. Placed on various supplements and following the suggestion to give up dairy to improve my sinus health (he suggested I give up both gluten and dairy, but I only chose to give up dairy at this time), I experienced immediate improvement in energy level and overall health.
Still plagued by serious depression, which became drastically worse over the summer, I transitioned my care to a classical homeopath. Although the naturopath had started me on an ideal supplement regimen, he had no further ideas beyond what he already tried to help me feel better emotionally.
With the first homeopathic remedy prescribed by my classical homeopath, my depression lifted at least 1%. This may sound insignificant, especially to someone who has not suffered with severe depression. But after so many years of intense emotional struggle with every medication prescribed only making me feel worse, it felt amazing and gave me hope things could get better. Things continued to improve and within 6 months, I met my wonderful husband. Soon after we were ready to start our life together!
Then..... poor health set in fairly quickly. Just a few months after our wedding I was diagnosed with a
During this time, a family friend suggested I see a functional medicine doctor that she highly recommended to try to get to the root cause of my health challenges. On the first visit the doctor quite sharply recommended I quit eating gluten. Feeling so lousy, and by this time having been diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (I would lie on the floor with pain all over my body and hopelessly fall asleep for hours after eating gluten and wake up with a splitting headache, etc), I immediately put her request into action.
Within days my health began improving. Over the course of the next year I was able to identify several more foods that were causing similar symptoms and ended up taking them out as well. My health only continued to get better!
Although I was never as well as I used to be, I was on a fulltime healing journey to heal both emotionally and physically. I still didn't feel as well as I did before the life-threatening infection, but things were semi-okay. I was adjusting to my new normal and hoping things would get better. I became strong by working out at the gym and had the physical strength and endurance to be able to go on 20-30 mile bike rides with my husband. Life went on for me as best it could.
Everything changed for the worse that summer. I attended a very expensive diabetes training camp in honor of my 25th diabetes anniversary. With a desire to live a long healthy life, we made the sacrifice financially to help me learn how to be physically active without the burden of multiple low blood sugars while on long bike rides.
Coupled with grueling physical activity, high altitudes that my body was not used to, record high temperatures, being across the country without the companionship and support of my husband, and poor air quality due to an outbreak of forest fires, my body was put through more than it could handle. By the final day of camp, I was alone in my hotel room with a migraine and profuse vomiting, most likely a case of heat exhaustion. It was frightening to be so violently ill while so far away from home and a big disappointment.
My health completely collapsed. For months I could hardly move I was so weak and exhausted. Once cycling on long bike rides, I now didn't have the energy to even get on my bike. Combined with a very serious and painful frozen shoulder, greatly complicated by two falls on my bike at camp, it was one of the most difficult periods of my life.
My lack of ability to do anything around the house due to prolonged overwhelming exhaustion and pain from my shoulder, which didn't allow me to sleep well at night, put a huge strain on my marriage. What began as my trying to convince my husband with all my might that it was advantageous for us to spend $2,500 on a camp to ensure a healthy and active future together had robbed me of every last bit of my health.
Desperate for help and answers, I met with a professor of acupuncture at a local university. She was able to explain very easily what had happened in my body that summer at camp and why the factors present were a set up for failure. Even with her expert care, weekly acupuncture appointments and Chinese herbs aimed at restoring my depleted adrenal glands, rebalancing my body and loosening the extreme tightness in my shoulder could hardly make a dent in the way I felt.
I would like to note that this camp was in no way intentionally trying to hurt me or the health of any of the campers. It was just an unfortunate set of factors and experiences that created the perfect storm within my body. Until experiencing it first hand, I could not have known it would impact me so harshly.
Already depleted, that Fall I got sick and was not able to shake it. Weeks turned into months of the flu and one virus after another until finally on the day after Thanksgiving, white as a ghost and hardly able to move I was so weak, I was diagnosed with pneumonia. Bedridden for months at this point, I did all I could to heal. Finally after months of rest and a strong course of antibiotics to treat the pneumonia, I was starting to feel better and regain my energy. Things were finally on the upswing! I was going to be okay and get through it.
Then, the next day, the very day after my antibiotics ended, my husband and I were in a car accident. Not bad enough? It was on our 5th wedding anniversary! We were on our way to a fancy dinner at a supper club followed by plans to see a performance of The Christmas Carol at a local theater. It was one thing too many, right on top of each other. I fell apart.
Initially I didn't think the accident was very serious but learned very quickly it was. It completely flared up my health in so many ways. As a matter of fact I still have pain and difficulty in several areas of my body that I am trying to work through and heal from.
All of this happened two years ago, and I've been fighting to feel well ever since. While still working to heal my frozen shoulder, I was diagnosed with a resistant to heal case of plantar fasciitis. Despite physical therapy, rest, exercises and stretches I have not been able to heal from either injury which has only kept me from activities I love, causing weight gain and impacting my level of diabetes control.
One of the most difficult parts of these challenging experiences over the years is that although I never returned to looking like the healthy person I once did, my health has still been mostly invisible to everyone around me. Friendships have fallen away and relationships strained as I haven't been well enough to commit to much beyond the holistic appointments I keep, necessary daily self-care, cooking and gentle exercise that keeps my health from further depleting. However unfair, sometimes you are told you are selfish for needing to take care of yourself and friends and family think you don't care.
This couldn't be further from the truth, but people judge you based on what their perception is, no matter how inaccurate. If you are not in a wheelchair or you don't have cancer, you are fine! People forget you are plagued with multiple health challenges and most do not want to hear about it anyway. The world is geared for people who can pull up their bootstraps. For the rest of us who are not able to do that, life keeps barreling by. You get to learn what relationships to keep and which ones to let go based on the understanding and empathy (or lack of it!) offered.
My plans to go back to school for holistic health have been delayed, indefinitely. I need to have the energy to care for my health and all of the work around the house before I take on another commitment. Housework is a chore I often do not have the energy for. With any overexertion or too busy of a day, my adrenals give out leaving me exhausted for days on end and require nothing but rest. Without rest, I only slip further into deeper exhaustion.
It has been the most challenging existence causing deep sorrow and pain to have a body not able to do what I need or want and a mind and heart that have so much to contribute and offer the world.
My blogging and freelance writing have been an immense gift allowing me to use my suffering and the lessons taught to reach out and help others around the world. I will always be thankful for this opportunity no matter how poorly I've felt. Challenging health or not, I'm still able to connect with others through sharing the heart and depth of my experience. Hearing the ways my blogging and sharing has helped others has brought me light at some of my darkest moments and been a way to help others despite my suffering.
I still feel called to explore more of my gifts and have a deep desire to do all I can to help lighten the load of others and help them feel less alone. I for one know how challenging life with chronic health conditions can be and feel divinely guided, even when it would be much easier not to share, to give a voice that shares the truth of a reality that can be extremely painful and isolating.
The last few decades, plagued with challenges of almost every kind, has provided never ending lessons and opportunities to grow in faith, perseverance, patience, and forgiveness. Although emotionally I'm in a much better place than I've ever been through the challenging and painful work I've embarked on with a classical homeopath and therapist, my physical health and energy level have continued to challenge me every single day. I've met with countless health providers hoping even one might be able to explain why I've felt so rotten and what I could do to feel better.
This past Fall 2014, one provider finally offered a possible solution to my physical suffering, debilitating exhaustion, and slow to heal injuries. What she suggested wasn't easy and brought up a lot of grief. It's been a journey, a courageous one at that and one I am still unfolding.
Is there a way to heal from so much hardship?
I sure hope so! I am slowly figuring it out and learning as I go. Truthfully, it's been so extremely difficult to share these painful parts of my journey with you and vulnerably share parts of my physical and emotional suffering that only a few of my closest friends know about. I knew I needed to share with you for a few reasons but also to explain both the desperation and motivation I have to feel better.
I'll be back soon with Part 3 which will explore the positive information I have learned in recent months and important health changes I've made to try to feel better! I hope you'll join me. Thanks for reading.
*If you have not yet read Part 1 which shares my health experiences through age 30, you can read that here.
In Peace & Wellness,